Super Rugby preview – Round 14

JON CARDINELLI and RYAN VREDE analyse the key match-ups and pick the winners at the weekend.

Cardinelli edged ahead with a string of accurate calls last week and Vrede is banking on win-calls for the Cheetahs and Stormers to get him back on track this week. They agree there’ll be more misery for the Lions in Perth and are both backing the Reds to win the massive Aussie derby in Canberra.

KEO.CO.ZA SUCCESS RATE
VREDE: 58/86 (67%)
JC: 60/86 (70%)

CHIEFS vs BULLS, HAMILTON, FRI 09:35

JC’S CALL: The Bulls desperately need this victory to complete a good tour and stay in touch with the Stormers at the top of the SA conference. The Chiefs need a win and more importantly an improved performance following shoddy showings against the Lions and Reds. Who will prosper? The Chiefs are coming off a bye, and the Bulls are into their fourth game of a taxing tour Down Under. They’ve received a boost with news that their two ailing flankers have recovered, but I still reckon that back row lacks balance and overall the pack may struggle to live with the Chiefs at the collisions. Scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow will also cause problems for the Bulls around the fringes, and once the Chiefs gather momentum, that inconsistent Bulls defence could be further exposed by Sonny Bill and co. Chiefs by 5
VREDE’S CALL: I think Francois Hougaard’s inability to deliver consistently good tactical kicks is going to be central to a Bulls defeat. Hougaard is undoubtedly talented and a force when given space to operate around the fringes or in open field. But with tactical kicking being so critical to the success of the Bulls’ game plan I don’t think Hougaard is the man to deliver the quality they need from the back of the ruck or scrum. In a contest with two evenly matched sides like this one is, a single score from a broken field situation can be decisive to the outcome and I think this will be the case in Hamilton. Chiefs by 7

Chiefs – 15 Andrew Horrell, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Arizona Taumalolo, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Robbie Robinson, 22 Maritino Nemani.

Bulls – Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 CJ Stander, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Rayno Gerber, 18 Juandré Kruger, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 JJ Engelbrecht.

HURRICANES vs REBELS, WELLINGTON, SAT 07:35

JC’S CALL: The Hurricanes have thrown away handy leads in games against the Cheetahs and more recently against the Brumbies. It is therefore hard to back them with any certainty, even though they are playing against one of the weaker teams in the competition at home. The Rebels are yet to win overseas but will be buoyed by their recent showings. Their forwards are firing and the magic touches of Kurtley Beale and the prodigious boot of Mark Gerrard are potentially match-winning. I’m still expecting the Hurricanes to win, and I’m sure the reinstatement of Beauden Barrett will provide more stability. It should be one of those games where the lead changes hands many times, and this may please Canes coach Mark Hammett. If his side can’t shoot to a commanding lead, there is no danger of complacency. The Canes will want a more consistent effort, and I reckon they have enough across the board to deny the Rebels. Hurricanes by 7
VREDE’S CALL: The Rebels don’t have the personnel or tactical intelligence to force the Canes into the cavalier attacks that make them vulnerable to turnovers and counter-strikes against an unset defensive line. They’ve contested well at the gainline in recent weeks and built their success on this. But the best they can hope for is parity in this facet of play in Wellington, with playmaker Kurtley Beale’s ability to dictate affairs curtailed as a result. The Canes, with the impressive Beauden Barrett back, won’t have such trouble and provided they earn the right to play expansively, they should win comfortably. Hurricanes by 9

Hurricanes – 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben May.
Subs: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Reg Goodes, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Chris Eaton, 21 Tusi Pisi, 22 Jayden Hayward.

Rebels – 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Mark Gerrard, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Lachlan Mitchell, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve (c), 7 Tim Davidson, 6 Luke Jones, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Jono Owen, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Subs: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Rodney Blake, 18 Al Campbell, 19 Tom Chamberlain, 20 Richard Kingi, 21 James Hilgendorf, 22 Stirling Mortlock.

BLUES vs HIGHLANDERS, AUCKLAND, SAT 09:35

JC’S CALL: The Highlanders have a fantastic opportunity. They recorded an important win against the Bulls last week, and a five-pointer against this Blues side would prove a massive boost to their play-off ambitions. Blues coach Pat Lam has benched his misfiring stars, but the new faces will still be under pressure to win at Eden Park. The pack will struggle against a hard-nosed Highlanders unit that excels at the counter-ruck and lives for the battle at close quarters. On the other hand, the Highlanders can be devastating when they shift ruck turnovers wide, with men like Ben Smith proving hard to put down. Highlanders by 12
VREDE’S CALL: The Blues’ season has reached a new low with a number of players struggling or ruled out through injury and their All Blacks trio of Ali Williams, Piri Weepu and Ma’a Nonu dropped to the bench (the official line is they are being rested). The Highlanders are superior in all facets of play and their abrasive forwards will create the platform for the backline to rip the Blues to shreds. Highlanders by 12

Blues – 15 Hadleigh Parkes, 14 David Raikuna, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Michael Hobbs, 11 Sherwin Stowers, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saili/Luke Braid (c), 7 Luke Braid/Daniel Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Tevita Mailau, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Angus Ta’avao, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Daniel Braid / Peter Saili / Danny Pryor, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Ma’a Nonu, 22 Lachie Munro.

Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kurt Baker, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nick Crosswell, 7 Tim Boys, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Hoani MacDonald, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Subs: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Josh Bekhuis, 19 Scott Fuglistaller, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Kenny Lynn.

BRUMBIES vs REDS, CANBERRA, SAT 11:40

JC’S CALL: The words ‘cracking’ and ‘derby’ will never be used ahead of an all-Aussie contest. Nevertheless, this game should be closely contested with two well-coached teams jousting for a result that will hand them pole position in the Australian conference. The Brumbies welcome back scrumhalf Nic White, the fulcrum of their attack and kicking game. Both teams will fight for field position, but it is the Reds who may have the edge at the collisions. This should allow Liam Gill and Beau Robinson to enjoy more success at the breakdown, be it in the form of turnovers or slowing the opponent’s ball at ruck time. And when Will Genia and Quade Cooper receive the necessary platform, the Reds will dominate the kicking contest and eventually put points past the Brumbies. Reds by 6
VREDE’S CALL: I underestimated just how well coached this Brumbies team is when I called the Hurricanes to beat them last week, but Jake White has forged them into a highly efficient and formidable unit. I fear, however, that the loss of key strike runner Fotu Auelua will seriously undermine their ability to generate momentum at the gainline, while the absence of an accomplished tactical kicker will be terminal to their cause. The Reds will match them physically on defence and pin them in their half through tactical kicking, forcing errors and building their lead through penalties before their superiority shines through when the game opens up in the final quarter. Reds by 8

Brumbies – 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Scott Fardy, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Subs: 16 Anthony Hegarty, 17 Ruaidhri Murphy, 18 Leon Power, 19 Ita Vaea, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Tevita Kuridrani.

Reds – TBC

FORCE vs LIONS, PERTH, SAT 13:40

JC’S CALL: Those who thought they had witnessed the worst of the worst when the Blues hosted the Lions are in for a nasty surprise. This will be the clanger of the competition. Will the Force’s hatred of their former mentor, John Mitchell, be enough to inspire a better performance? Will Mitchell’s inside information tell in how the Lions perform? The Mitchell factor may spice up what is a dour contest, but when that first whistle blows, the players will be left to their own devices, and let’s face it, accuracy and discipline hasn’t been their forte. The Lions have the better goal-kicker in Elton Jantjies, but the Force have the more settled set piece and their efforts at the collisions will nullify a player like Derick Minnie. Force by 9
VREDE’S CALL: Mitchell brings his travelling circus to familiar turf and they’ll suffer a familiar result. After a torturous tour the Lions players arrive in Perth in body alone, with their minds already cast to the trip home. I don’t believe they will rouse themselves to the level of performance needed to down the Force. Expect an error-laden match as both teams abandon structure in favour of an expansive brand. Whoever makes less handling errors and misses less tackles will set themselves up for the win. Cardinelli correctly highlights Jantjies’ goal-kicking as being superior to his counterpart’s, but it is the only area the Lions are ahead in. It will be painful to watch but thankfully we won’t be subjected to the garbage the Lions serve up on the road any longer. Wait, they’re useless no matter where they play. Anyway… Force by 7

Western Force – 15 Alfie Mafi, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Will Tupou, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Ben Seymour, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock (c), 6 Matt Hodgson, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Salesi Manu, 18 Phoenix Battye, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Josh Holmes, 22 David Harvey.

Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Joshua Strauss (c), 7 Grant Hattingh, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Franco van der Merwe, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 CJ van der Linde.
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Cobus Grobbelaar, 19 Jaco Kriel, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Ruan Combrinck, 22 James Kamana.

CHEETAHS vs WARATAHS, BLOEMFONTEIN, SAT 17:05

JC’S CALL: The Cheetahs have already begun that characteristic latter season descent into mediocrity, and they may come short against a limited Waratahs team as well. They haven’t been the same side since Johan Goosen was ruled out with injury with neither Sias Ebersohn or Riaan Smit capable of playing that crucial tactical kicking role. Piet van Zyl is another who prefers to run or pass rather than kick, and while the Waratahs defence will need to be on top form, they will hope the Cheetahs persist with expansive tactics. The Waratahs pack has the physicality to match that of the Cheetahs and in Berrick Barnes the visitors have a man capable of kicking them into good field positions. The Stormers escaped with a win against this Tahs side last week, the Cheetahs won’t be so lucky. Waratahs by 8
VREDE’S CALL: How sterile was the Tahs’ attack at Newlands last week? And while they won’t be confronted with a defence of the Stormers’ calibre I don’t believe they will make the attacking improvements they need to beat the Cheetahs. Expect Heinrich Brüssow to be more effective at the breakdown than he has been to date as the Tahs’ lack of attacking synergy sees runners isolate themselves. The Cheetahs will thrive in this loose environment and steal it with a couple of scores from broken field. Cheetahs by 5

Cheetahs – 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Rocco Jansen, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Ashley Johnson, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Andries Ferreira, 4 Izak van der Westhuizen, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Francois Uys, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Philip Snyman.

Waratahs – 15 Bernard Foley, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson (c).
Subs: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Richard Stanford, 19 Lopeti Timani, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Daniel Halangahu, 22 Tom Carter.

SHARKS vs STORMERS, DURBAN, SAT 19:10

JC’S CALL: Both teams have enjoyed a good run of results, but the results aren’t a definitive indicator of form. The Sharks have improved with each match while the punch-drunk Stormers are operating with a makeshift pack. They will travel to Durban determined to win the collisions and provide their backs with good go-forward ball, but may fail against superior physical exponents like Bismarck du Plessis, The Beast and Willem Alberts. Apart from their depleted back row, overplayed forwards like Andries Bekker and Steven Kitshoff have started to look tired in recent matches, which is not a good sign ahead of such a brutal battle. John Plumtree has picked a five-two bench which should ensure the Sharks maintain their physical intensity, and has also selected a backline with plenty of kicking and attacking options. Freddie Michalak has turned in some controlled displays at No 10 while Pat Lambie will vary his play from fullback. The Stormers may be hoping to expose a Sharks defence that is still not up to standard, but the Cape side may struggle for forward ascendancy and the fact that their own attack is misfiring does not inspire confidence. Sharks by 5
VREDE’S CALL: It won’t be pretty but the Stormers won’t care. Defence will win this one for them against a Sharks side who don’t have the attacking arsenal to erode their granitic defence. Certainly in Beast Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis and Marcell Coetzee the hosts have potentially destructive ball-carriers, but the Stormers have shown their capacity to keep a check on runners of their quality and will do so once more to deny the Sharks the attacking momentum they need to unleash their back division effectively. Frederic Michalak will struggle behind a bunch of heavies losing the collisions, while his side won’t have much joy at lineouts either. This leaves the scrums as their best launch but the Stormers will quell that threat easily. Their superior kicking game will pin the Sharks in their territory and force them into errors with their powerful phase play. Peter Grant’s boot will keep their score ticking over, with the odd trip across the whitewash helping to give the Stormers the win they so desperately need. Stormers by 7

Sharks – 15. Pat Lambie, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Freddie Michalak, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Keegan Daniel (c), 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Anton Bresler, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19. Ryan Kankowski, 20. Jacques Botes, 21. Odwa Ndungane, 22. Louis Ludik.

Stormers – 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Don Armand, 20 Nick Fenton-Wells, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Burton Francis.